Enemy of My Enemy
"Captain Rogers," JARVIS announced to the Avengers congregated in the kitchen. "A Ms. Buffy Summer is downstairs. She wishes to speak to you. She said that it was urgent."
"A woman," Tony grinned around his coffee mug. He was leaning against the refrigerator sleepily. It was nearly ten in the morning and he hadn't slept last night. "For Cap? Send her up, JARVIS. This I got to see."
"Summers?" Clint asked Natasha. "Is that…"
Natasha hmmed and grabbed her phone.
"Hey, Doc," Clint nudged Bruce. "You might want to be elsewhere for this. Summers is not known for being… a calm person."
"Ah, Come on, her name is Buffy. She might as well call herself Bimbo. How much can she really rile Bruce? Except in good ways."
Natasha didn't look up from her text message. "You should hear some of the names I've used." The mildness of her tone was a clear warning to all.
"I'll be in the lab," Bruce decided.
Steve started the Respect Women lecture for the hundredth time, which Tony would blow off until Steve threatened to tell Pepper.
"I respect Pepper tons and I respect Natasha too," Tony argued. "But someone named Buffy?"
"What's wrong with my name?"
Tony, Steve, Clint and Natasha all turned at the new voice. Steve's opinion of her hadn't changed: well-dressed war refuge. She looked even more brittle than the last time they had met. Her clothes weren't normal civilian but they didn't look like a uniform either. They reminded Steve of Tasha's work clothes, sleek and formfitting. They didn't give an enemy a handle to grab. They were stained with something dark and foreboding and there was a streak of blood on her cheek and into her hair.
"An assassin came to the school."
"The girls?" Steve asked. He didn't know any of their names but he had seen quite a few and they were all so young."
"Eighteen wounded." Buffy's eyes were hard. "We might lose one."
"What can SHIELD do for you?" Natasha offered.
Buffy set the folder on the kitchen counter and opened it. She handed a sketch over to the spy. "Everything you have on these people. We're going snake hunting."
All of the attending Avengers recognized the symbol. "Hydra," Steve declared. Then he was distracted with the posed picture underneath. "Why are you caring a picture of Bucky?"
Natasha recognized him too. "That's the Winter Soldier. He is probably the most successful assassin to come out of the Cold War. Hundreds are attributed to him. He came and none are dead?"
Summers shook her head. "Marylyn might not make it, but my girls are fast and there were enough of them around to keep the wounds from becoming deadly. And Willow was home and she felt the first drop of blood fall. He didn't have a chance."
"No," Steve argued. "That's James Barnes. That's Bucky, my best friend."
"You're both right," Summers declared. "When Will put him down, she noticed that someone had brainwashed him bad. She's trying to undo the damage but it was done with science not magic, she needs his anchor. That's Steve. We need to go. He keeps fighting us and breaking bones."
Tony huffed. "How much damage could an octogenarian really do?"
Buffy moved so quickly she blurred and then a thrown butter knife was impaled in the refrigerator less than an inch from Tony's head. "He was sent to kill my girls," she hissed. "And he just might accomplish it."
Tony started yelled and Clint ushered him out of the kitchen kicking and screaming and threatening to call Pepper. Steve stepped right into Buffy's space, hands up and speaking quietly. "I know you've lost… people before." His words and actions served a double purpose: get the woman to calm down and failing that, be close enough to stop the next outburst.
Buffy deflated like a balloon. "Too many. Marylyn's only thirteen, though. She wasn't even on patrol. She was just coming home from the store with candy. Barnes caught her outside and used her to get through the gate."
"Bucky's dead. I watched him die," Steve whispered. "It was seventy years ago and he would never do that."
Summers moved Barnes' posed military picture to the side to reveal a recent candid, of a wild-eyed, long-haired man being held down by tiny slim hands. It was still Bucky under the anger and frustration. He was still young. "You watched him fall. I know that much of history. You never saw the body. In our business, no body no death. I don't care how long it's been, I've seen people survive it all. It hasn't been roses and butterflies for the guy either. Someone tortured him and gave him a metal arm, not to mention the number they did on his mind. Serious mind-wipe-y trauma."
"It was the Russians," Tasha said.
The two blonds turned to look at her.
"Some of Hydra, but mostly the Russians," she admitted. "Do you want the Hydra intel delivered to your hotel here, or to England? Fury okayed it as long as Steve, Clint, Coulson and I are part of the strike teams."
"England," Summers said. She drew a necklace out of her pocket. "We need Barnes –on our side- to make plans, and for that we need Steve to get to Barnes. So we all need to get to England. Will you come?" she asked Steve.
"It's really Bucky?"
"Then of course I'll come."
"Put this on."
Steve put the necklace on and examined it closely. "What is it? Will it be an identifier to whoever picks us up at the airport?"
Summers smiled for the first time. "No. It's a door to Weird Street." She had her phone in hand.
"Really?" Natasha was incredibly interested.
"Really really." Summers used her phone like a walkie-talkie. "We're good here. Two to transport."
In the blink of an eye, Steve was no longer in the Stark Tower, Avengers' kitchen but in England, standing on the back lawn of the girls' school.
"Come on," Summers called. She was already striding purposefully to the thick wooden double doors. "We have a lot of work to do."
"So is Stark ever going to forgive me for throwing a knife at him in his own kitchen?"
"He has terms."
"You have to go to his psychologist… on his dime."
"Like a regular shrink can help me."
"It's his psychologist. I've worked with her. Natasha and Clint have worked with her. I'm planning on dragging Bucky to her as soon as possible. She's… good at her job."
"Eh. And the second?"
"He wants an in depth sit-down with Willow to find out how she managed to transport us across the globe. JARVIS set off alarms when I vanished off his sensors."
"That's likely. Willow wants to talk to him about his green energy manufacturing. He does realize that he talks science and she talks magic and rarely will the twain meet, right?"
"That just makes it more of a challenge and he loves challenges."